John Savage, Fenian Heroes and Martyrs (Boston: Patrick Donahoe 1868), pp.121-62.

Source: Captured from Michael Ruddy’s “Fenians” website [online; accessed 98.07.2010.]

COLONEL THOMAS FRANCIS BOURKE

Emmet and Bourke - Movements of Bourke’e Family in America and Canada - At Business - A Family Picture - Joins the Fenian Brotherhood after the War - At the Third Congress - Success as Organizer for Manhattan District - Resigns - Why he went to Ireland - Assigned to the Tipperary District - The Rising - Captured at Ballyhurst Fort - Indicted for High Treason - Trial - Evidence of the Informer. Massey and Corrydon - Great Speech in the Dock - Touching Letters to his Mother - Description in his Cell.

It has been truly said that no words have so thrilled the Irish heart, since the ever-famous speech of Robert Emmet, in the dock, September 1803 as those of Thomas Francis Bourke, in the same place, on the 1st of May, 1867.

No doubt the similarity of the scenes which go into the immortal history of Ireland’s martyrology simultaneously suggested the comparison between them, to many minds. It was natural. It would have been remarkable, indeed, if beholding the one, the memories of the other were not conjured up. Sixty-four years almost had passed, since the devoted young Irish went from France to revolutionize his country, and give freedom and the means of happiness and prosperity to her oppressed people. Uncontrollable circum stances baffled his devotion, waylaid his hopes, exposed his plans, frustrated the result, which should have followed [121] his enthusiastic and carefully devised labors, and flung him into the relentless jaws of English authority, as administered in Ireland by the infamous Norbury. He died glorying in the sacrifice he was able to make on the altar of his country’s rights; and his wondrous words are daily given in school-books and “Readers,” with those of the founders and heroes of the United States, to the boys of the Republic to enliven their mental marrow with deeds of glory, and strengthen them with faith in love of country, even unto dying for her.

The heroism and romantic disinterestedness which we have been accustomed to regard with a fervor which awoke our pride, not less than our pity - and pity, the Irish dramatist tells us, is “kin to love” - has been enacted over again in these, our supposed prosaic days, This time the hero went to Ireland, not from France, but from America, guided by similar desires, fed by as broad a faith, and encouraged by hopes born of facts apparently not less - actually much more convincing, than those upon which the young revolutionist of 1803 based his mission to Ireland.

It is not only a source of consolation, but of hopeful inspiration, to see the effect produced by the bold and touching words of an honest man. They are self-convincing to the heart of every manly reader; they need no argument to enforce their truths, or prove the character of the man who utters them. Thomas Francis Bourke, who had been scarcely mentioned in the public press, before his trial, has leaped into a widely acknowledged pre-eminence; a position which cannot be [122] won simply by fortunate circumstances on the one hand, or appealingly oppressive treatment on the other. The vital spark of genius, whether it be manifested in letters, art, science or heroism - for there is a genius in heroism outside of that other reliable kind mentioned in gazettes, and based on routine - must be there - must give life to the act or expressed thought, must give that touch of nature which makes the whole world kin. Robert Emmet was scarcely known until he never could be known, save by the record which his genius and his faith made. The name of Thomas Francis Bourke was scarcely known until it filled all mouths; and he will, no doubt, be associated with his day, when those who occupied public attention for years before it, will be placed on the retired lists of history.

It is those truths, which anticipate tradition and history, that lend an interest to the career, whatever it may have been, which preceded the act which gives or propitiates fame.

Thomas Francis Bourke was born on the 10th December, 1840, in the town of Fethard, county of Tipperary - “Tipperary of the broad hills and golden valleys; Tipperary, where the rivers flow like Irish melodies, dividing their chorus with the more rugged and picturesque hills of Waterford, that seem to grow tame with listening, as the ‘rude sea’ erst did to the ‘dulcet and harmonious breath’ of Oberon’s mermaid.” Like many of the very ablest men, wits, orators and poets, Curran, Moore and Mangan, for instance, and most devoted and effective patriots, like Wolfe Tone and [123] William Putnam McCabe, Bourke sprung from the people. We learn that both of his parents belonged to the most respectable of those families, known in Ireland as “the middle class.” His father was a man of marked intelligence, and more than the average education of persons engaged in trade. He carried on the painting and decorating business successfully for many years, and, as well from his cleverness and industry, as from his family connection with many of the professional men and better class of farmers, enjoyed a large share of the contracts in his county. No man stood higher in his community, than the good father of this good son, who was one of six children. The results of the famine year, which were felt so heavily in the south and west, materially affected Mr. Bourke’s business, so much so indeed, that emigration from the isle of sorrow was suggested, and accepted as the only means of affording his young family that present care and future prospect, which his heart prompted him to give them. In 1850, Mr. Bourke and his family arrived in New York, and commenced the world anew. His days were spent in providing the means of physical sustenance for his children, his evening leisure hours to the imparting of such literary aliment to them as his early habits enabled him to bestow. At the end of two years, he had acquired a modest competency, when the failing health of his wife demanded immediate removal; and the family, leaving New York, settled in St. Johns, Newfoundland, to commence life for the third time. Mr. Bourke’s attention and industry produced their inevitable reward, and he had [214] succeeded in establishing himself, when his own health gave way, and a change again became necessary. After two years in St. Johns, he was obliged to remove to Toronto, Canada West, where a successful relative, a member of the Provincial Parliament resided.

Meanwhile Thomas Francis had not been idle. He had put his hand to, and became skilled in his father’s business, so much so, that he was permitted to travel “on his own responsibilities.” He bent his steps to Boston, where another relative lived and flourished. Here he settled and worked, and won not only a manly independence for himself, but a surplus, which he nobly contributed to the family fund at Toronto. His father’s health continued to break; his exertions had been unremitting, his physical ability overtasked, in 1858 he became helpless, and thenceforth we are told the entire support of father, mother, three sisters and a boy brother, devolved solely on the stout heart and skilful hand of the dauntless youth, the subject of this sketch, who remitted his bank cheque to Canada with the regularity of Saturday night’s succession. At length the father died, and selling out their pretty little cottage in the suburbs of Toronto, Mrs. Bourke and her children removed to New York. Here the girls, now approaching womanhood, found work for their industrious fingers, and relieved their brother in part, of the burden he had so loyally and lovingly borne. The family became very happy together, and Mr. M. J. Heffernan, to whom we are indebted for many of the facts here narrated, gives us a graphic and touching view of the sayings and doings [125] in their humble but happy home. He says it was a great treat to their few and select friends to visit them of an evening.

“Poor Toni came in from his day’s work, with his pleasant smile and his cheery laugh, and his little sister picked up her books and slate and made way for Tom to kiss dear mother; and then his grown up sisters come in, and they had such welcome for each other as though they had been all absent for years. And then they sat down to tea in such a jolly humor, and talked over old times, and old struggles, and old friends, and of the little brother at school, in Canada, under the guardianship of the relative above mentioned; and when the tea things were removed they read a while from books of their intelligent mother’s choosing, and from the morning papers, which Tom was always sure to fetch home, and from some national journal, which they received from an unforgetful friend in the old country. And then they chatted a while, and their fond mother, and one of the truest types of a true mother, told them stories of a time and a country which the elder children could not more than remember, and which the younger ones never saw; and she related passages of that country’s most melancholy history, and named the books in which the episodes could be found, and they read these books as soon after as possible; and she told them stories of wrongs and sufferings, which their race had been made to bear, some printed in books, and some which were printed nowhere but in the burning memories of Irish people. She explained to them how it came about that such a race [126] had been so abused, wronged, degraded and despised, and she there and then made Tom a Fenian! And as the evening wore on, some friend paid a visit and heard a sweet song sweetly sung. (How charmingly Tom’s voice accompanied those of his beloved sisters!) No silly rhodomontade, but the real thing - ‘Cushla Gal Machre’ and ‘Who fears to speak of Ninety-eight?’ And, dear, oh dear, how poor Tom could sing:

’The Green, O, the Green, ’tis the color of the true!’

And then bed-time came, and the favored visitor having gone, this thrice happy little household knelt down together to mingle their responses in the Rosary, and offer an united prayer for the repose of the soul of the dead father. And then they retired for the night, under the shield of God’s special protection - this Irish widow and her Irish children, with their hearts full of Irish virtue and Irish love.”

After an absence of three or four years, Bourke returned to New York, about May, 1865. In some respects he was greatly developed. His natural abilities had been expanded by experience with the world, but his constitution, never strong, was radically impaired. However, lie promptly set to work, and soon his quick intelligence was rewarded by the position of foreman in one of the largest painting firms in the city, with a handsome salary.

The Fenian Brotherhood had received a wonderful impetus during the war. The development of Irish character and bravery, as illustrated by Corcoran, at Bull-Run, as prisoner of war and subsequently, in [127] command of the Irish Legion; by Mulligan, in his famous defence of Lexington; by Meagher and the Irish Brigade; by Shields, who out-manoeuvred and defeated Stonewall Jackson; by Bryan, who fell at the head of his regiment at Port Hudson; by Cass and his “Irish Ninth” of Massachusetts; by Guiney, who succeeded him, and by Byrnes and his twenty-eighth of the same State; by Cahill and his Connecticut Irishmen; by Lawlor, of Kentucky; McGroarty, of Ohio; Thomas Smythe, of Delaware; Matthew Murphy, James E. McMahon, James P. McIver, and many others, had a very powerful effect on the Fenian organization. This was augmented by the action of England during the war; and the expectation that hostilities between the United States and the former, would give the Irish soldier a chance to strike at his old enemy, brought light and comfort on many a weary march, and nerved him to survive all difficulties, in view of the long expected day of retribution. This hope caused Fenianism to spread rapidly, as well in the army as out of it. The military enthusiasm, bred of experience and the self-reliance it creates, thus infused into the organization, gave it great hopes and vitality.

On Bourke’s return to New York, he found many of his associates, both soldiers and Fenians, anxious to put the knowledge of the former into the cause of the latter. With the teaching of his good mother, under the shelter of the Republic; with the memories of British benevolence to Ireland, in the shape of famine, fever-sheds and oppression, it was not difficult to enlist him in the great old cause, with the older name. His sympathies [128] once aroused, Bourke’s every energy followed in the same direction. Consequently, with his positive talents and manly attributes, his pride of uprightness and horror of subterfuge, he rose rapidly in the estimation of his brethren of the Wolfe Tone Circle, which he had joined. He was elected a delegate to the third National Congress, held at Philadelphia (Oct. 1865,) and strenuously strove to prevent the change in the Constitution which introduced a President, Senate and House of Delegates into the organization. His efforts, however, were not successful; but the ability and intuition exhibited in the debates, in which he participated, were not lost upon the authorities then controlling the Brotherhood, and on his return to New York, he was selected as, and requested to accept the position of, organizer for the District of Manhattan.

Thomas Bourke at once gave up his excellent employment, and entered on that path of destiny which he was so well fitted to distinguish. A natural orator, with that useful education which is always effectively ready, because self-acquired; with a clear, pleasant voice, and a manner not less fervid because graceful and easy, Bourke quickly made himself felt in his new sphere. He never talked from a subject, but at it, and into it, and brought home to the minds of his hearers the sterling convictions which animated his own. His sincerity and earnestness were strongly indicated by his words and manner, and gave assurance of unquestionable patriotism and nature’s nobility.

At the time Bourke became organizer, there were some seventy circles, with ten thousand members, in [129] the State of New York. In two months of his “preaching” as he used to call it, New York city alone had one hundred and four circles and thirty thousand members in “good standing.” At the division in the Fenian ranks he remained with the parent organization; was a delegate to the Fourth National Congress, New York, January, 1866, which abolished the Presidency and Senate, and reinstated the old constitution; and was unanimously elected District Centre for the District of Manhattan, which embraced the Counties of New York, Westchester, Kings, Queens, Suffolk and Richmond, in the State of New York, and County of Hudson, in the State of New Jersey. His days were taken up with incessant labor in his office on the ground floor of the celebrated head-quarters, opposite Union Square, while his nights were not less laboriously devoted to visiting the circles.

The spring of 1866 was looked forward to by the great body of the Fenians with a sort of restless expectant enthusiasm. It was hoped that the rising in Ireland was close at hand, and the government of the Fenians in New York purchased and fitted out its first vessel for the looked-for Irish crisis. When this was effected, Bourke’s heart became lightened. Contemplating the prospect of active service, he exclaimed, “Thank God, for I am tired of preaching!” He was determined to go with the vessel, in striving to dissuade him from which, Col. O’Mahony, the Head Centre, said:

“Why, you can be of no use yet, you are not a sailor.” [130]
“No matter,” said Bourke, “I am resolved to go, and you must let me. There is surely something that I can do, I can keep accounts for the paymaster.”
“Very well, then,” said the Head Centre, “be paymaster yourself.”
“Thank you, sir,” said Bourke.

On that day, Bourke resigned his District Centreship, but he did not sail for Ireland then. Other divisions following the Campo Bello adventure, proved disastrous to the plans of the brotherhood. But neither the faith nor the perseverance of Bourke was shaken. He may have been disgusted, but he was not disheartened. On the arrival of James Stephens, Bourke again undertook the continuance of those labors in which he had been so wearied and so successful, and throughout the summer he remained at his post, making tours of organization, and assisting Mr. Stephens in his attempt to rebuild the comparatively shattered fabric of Fenianism. He had set his heart too largely on the matter not to see further into it. He had labored too zealously not to seek with his own eyes a result. In the Winter, he begged his mother’s blessing, received it in the manner he so proudly alludes to in his speech in the dock, and started, hoping to aid or make an opportunity whereby the leaders of the Fenian movement might vindicate their promises.

The same friend, quoted above, Mr. Heffernan, gives a very graphic sketch, not only of Col. Bourke’s appearance before he started, but of the views which inspired him to such a course. This is peculiarly [131] interesting, and exhibits in a marked manner the comprehensive views of duty, as well as of faith, growing out of a clear head and a fresh heart.

“I met him,” says Mr. Heffernan, “the evening before he started for Ireland. His bright, intelligent face was pale and sunken, and his dark, penetrating eyes gleamed with the additional lustre of a violent fever. His soft, persuasive voice had a deeper tone, which he tried to make as cheerful as he could, but he was sick - very, very sick, and every muscle quivered, with pain. His health, never very robust, had begun to fail early in the summer, just about a year ago, and at the time of his departure, his buoyant and happy spirit commenced to succumb to the disease which had slowly but too surely undermined his constitution. His ringing laugh was growing more moistened, so to speak, every day, and there were moments when his countenance wore that sad, half sorrowful, half resigned expression, peculiar to those who feel that their days are not long in the land. I tried to dissuade him from going to Ireland then, because I knew that his declining physical strength would. not permit of his undergoing a military campaign. In order further to prevail on him to abandon . his design, I taunted him that his only motive in going to Ireland must be the desire to redeem his character from the stain that bad men would try to fasten upon it, on account of his persistent adherance to Mr. Stephens while he conducted the affairs of the Fenian Brotherhood in New York.

“‘There,’ said the gallant fellow, ‘you evince the [132] mistaken notions peculiar to those who have not studied the question in all its bearings. The preservation of my honor is but one (and it is the least important) motive, which impels me to the course which I am about to take, and which I should speedily abandon were there no higher principle at stake. In the first place, we are not sure that the movement will be abortive. Providence may throw the necessary advantages in our favor, and where there is even the ghost of a chance, the present desperate state of affairs demands that we should run the risk. But, allowing the impossibility of our attaining the great object of our lives at present, a ‘rising’ in Ireland now cannot be otherwise than a success, for it is indispensable to the very life of the cause. Let us see how the case stands. You know, as well as I do, that the only hope of Ireland’s redemption rests with the ‘Irish Nation in America,’ and you know that that new nation has the will and the power to make Ireland’s freedom a certainty. You know that so far from proving this doctrine to be fallacious, the ill-directed and badly managed Fenian Brotherhood has fully demonstrated what an immense power this new Irish nation might he under honest and able guidance. Yea know, that in proper hands, it could tear Ireland from the united grasp of all Europe. But to be of any use whatever, in that direction, it is absolutely necessary that a clear understanding should exist between the Irish exiles here, and the patriots who may still remain on their native soil. They should regard each other with more. than brotherly love, and [133] above all, they must have a firm faith in, and reliance upon, each other. It matters not now from what cause, but that feeling of mutual faith and reliance grows weaker and weaker every day. It must be re-inspired and strengthened at any cost, or effective work for Ireland will be rendered impossible. The injudicious course hitherto pursued by Mr. Stephens has left the men at home under a strong impression that they have been abandoned by their brothers in America. If we allow that impression to remain, they will never trust us again, and then good-bye to all hope for Ireland! It must, I say, be removed at any cost! Now, who is to remove it? The wily enemy is now at work, in press and pulpit, aided by many an ‘Irish patriot’ (God bless the hearers!) to weaken the faith of the people, here and at home, in their leaders - to prove that these leaders have, through sordid and other unworthy motives, led their confiding followers into a trap, and then abandoned them. It must be confessed that the conduct of Stephens has given this villainous slander a very plausible appearance of truth. He, having made that disastrous pledge, should have redeemed it with his life. His failure or folly must completely demoralize the people, if it be not counteracted. It must be. Kelley, Halpin, M’Cafferty, and the rest of us - ‘his associates in crime,’ as we are innocently called - must prove to the people at home that their lives and liberties are not trifled with by the Irishmen of America. We must prove to them that we are in earnest - that we are ready to pour out our life-blood, not only to give them [134] freedom, but even to save the common cause from shame and dishonor. We have had the name of ‘leaders,’ and it devolves upon us to give the lie direct to those who would but too gladly say to Irish, men: ‘Your leaders betray you; beware how you trust them again.’ Mutual trust and confidence, between the Irish in Ireland and the Irish in America, and between the people and their leaders MUST be restored. When that is done, the game can be played over again, with all the advantages on our side of having seen the enemy’s hand. To be sure, it will cost some hundreds of lives, but it will be well worth the purchase. The blood of her children is the only commodity in which poor old Ireland is rich.

But it may be objected that in ruining ourselves and those who depend on us, we have no moral right to involve the destruction of hundreds of good men in Ireland, who may follow us into danger and death. I am aware that quite a number of tender-hearted ‘patriots’ would take this high ground just now, and they would be perfectly right if those on whom they lavish their cheap compassion were of the same opinion, which, unfortunately for that merciful argument, they are not. It would, no doubt, be very pleasant for those, whose malignant tongues and pens are already prepared to vituperate us in any case, to be able to say that we ‘dragged’ our poor, ignorant countrymen to perdition, unshriven and unprepared, in order to redeem our own characters, or through some other less creditable, personal motive. The facts, however, of which we trust to you to give a [135] plain statement, at the proper time, will utterly belie the assertions that we are urged to this course by any selfish consideration whatever, or even that imprudence had any share in the matter. You are aware that within the past two months we have received despatches from every district in Ireland, all bearing the same burden - all chorusing the same tune - all beseeching us to go to them at once, no matter what means we possessed, and help them to fight the good fight, which they would immediately inaugurate with-out us in case we failed to be at their head. If we oppose them now, our own brothers in Ireland will be the most persistent and vehement maligners of the Irish race in America. What will be the result ? The men at home will never trust us again, and then, I repeat, farewell to Irish Regeneration! They, not we, are forcing this business; but, God willing, if they go down, we, who first raised their hopes, will go down with them - aye, no matter how far down they may go 1 Therefore, I go to Ireland - feeble and prostrate as I am in body, I shall go to Ireland, and were I obliged to be carried through the fields, I shall be in the thick of the first fight! My comrades and myself, with a full belief in the ultimate triumph of our holy cause, go to offer up our lives - not even for the immediate consummation of our dearest hopes, but for the eradication of that distrust and want of true fraternal feeling, whose seeds the enemy has scattered broadcast amongst us, and for the establishment of that love of one another and kindly forbearance of each other’s faults and follies, without which the [136] Irish race will ever be the shackled shame of mankind. We give our lives as an offering of purification, that our cause may be cleansed from the pollution of its enemies - that it may be lifted from the filthy slough into which it has been cast, and placed as high beyond the touch of the venal and corrupt, as it is to-day beneath the notice of those who are sincere and worthy. It behoves you who remain behind to see that this willing offering is not made in vain. On with the good work! Begin over again, and we’ll fight it out on this line! Farewell!”

He went to give his young life as an “ offering of purification,” for the “eradication of distrust,” for the es-tablishment of mutual love and “kindly forbearance.”

These parting words of Colonel Bourke, show him to have sounded the depths of Irish necessity, and to have struck the key-note of Irish success. He went to a sacrifice to show others how to go to a success.

In the distribution of the district commands, Colonel Bourke was assigned to the Tipperary District. The general rising, as agreed upon, took place on the 5th March, 1867, and under that date, was issued from the “Head-Quarters I. R. Army, Limerick Junction, Tipperary,” the following proclamation, the main characteristics of which will not lead us to err in assigning it to Colonel Bourke:

“Soldiers, - The hour for which you have longed has come at last. You are now about to confront the enemies of your country and your race. You must not expect material aid from without until you have shown the friends of Republican Liberty, by deeds, not words, that you are worthy their sympathy. [137]

“You are not so well armed as you might be, ... but you will remember that history furnishes no instance of revolution, when the insurgents took the field as well armed as the government forces opposed to them.

“You will carry on the struggle for Irish Independence according to the usages of civilized warfare; but should the enemy inaugurate the ‘stamping out’ process, or should they insult, injure or violate any of the daughters of our land, let then your battle-cry be war to the knife!

“Comrades! the eyes of the world are upon you, and thousands of your brothers beyond the Atlantic, and elsewhere, will rush to arms, when your deeds proclaim that you are really ‘the men in the gap.’

“Irishmen! May the wrongs and woes of centuries of oppression and misrule, nerve your arms when you march forth to combat, with the flag of you fathers above you, and the light of battle in your faces.”

The Government was prepared for the rising. It had in its pay since the September previous, the now notoriously infamous informer, John Joseph Corydon, who had been used as a despatch messenger between the leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, for nearly two years. This Corydon set the authorities on the track of Patrick Condon, alias Godfrey Massey, who acted in the capacity of traveling agent, or adjutant-general of Colonel Thomas J. Kelley, the acting C.O.I.R.[A] He became likewise an informer, and his evidence convicted Bourke, who was captured at the affray at Ballyhurst Fort, near Tipperary, on the 6th March. Bourke’s graces of manner won even the good-will of his captors. On his deportation, for trial, to Dublin, Major Lind, of the 31st regiment, shook hands with him, saying : “Good-bye, General Bourke; I wish you good [138] fortune.” Bourke replied: “I wish you the same, Major, and thank you for the kindness you have extended to me.”

The Special Commission sat in Dublin on the 10th April, when the prisoners, against whom bills of indictment had been found, were placed at the bar, in order to receive the necessary notice of trial, and to have counsel assigned them. By direction of the Lord Chief Justice, Thomas F., known as “General” Bourke, was the first placed at the bar. His Lordship then informed him that the grand jury had found bills of indictment for high treason against him; that he was entitled to copies of the indictment, lists of the jurors, and of the witnesses against him; also, that he would have ten clear days to consider his defence, and was at liberty to name two counsel, who would be assigned by the court. Colonel Bourke selected Messrs. Butt and Downes as his counsel, and Mr. Lawless as his attorney.

The indictment found by the grand jury, which consisted of four counts, may be here condensed, as it refers not only to Bourke, but to other noted Fenians, whose names it preserves, and who will be referred to in subsequent chapters.

The first count sets forth the general charge against the accused, as follows:

“The Jurors for our Lady the Queen, upon their oath and affirmation, do say and pre-sent, that Thomas Bourke, (otherwise called Thomas F. Bourke) John M’Cafferty, (otherwise called William Jackson,) Edward Duffy, John Flood, (otherwise called John Phillips,) Patrick Meares, Patrick Doran, George Connolly, (otherwise called Francis Connolly,) Jarleth [139] Mooney, Henry Filgate, Thomas Joseph William Clarke, John Hughes, Joseph Wheelan, Christopher Byrne, Luke Fullam, Laurence Fullam, James Gorman, Terence Kelly, and John Beirne, being subjects of our said Lady the Queen, not regarding the duty of their allegiance, nor having the fear of God in their hearts, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil, as false traitors against our said Lady the Queen, and wholly withdrawing the allegiance, fidelity and obedience, which every true and faithful subject of our said Lady the Queen should and of right ought to bear towards our said Lady the Queen, to wit, on the 11th day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-six, and on divers other days, as well before as after that day, to wit, at the Parish of St. Peter, in the County of Dublin, maliciously and traitorously, together with divers other false traitors, to the jurors aforesaid unknown, did compass, imagine, devise and intend to depose our said Lady the Queen from the royal state, title, power and government of this realm, and from the style, honor and kingly name of the Imperial Crown thereof, and to bring and put our said lady the Queen to death; and the said treasonable compassing, imagination, device and intention, maliciously and traitorously did express, utter, declare and evince, by divers overt acts and deeds, hereinafter mentioned, that is to say, in order to fulfil, perfect and bring to effect their most evil and wicked treason and treasonable compassing, imagination, device and intention aforesaid, they, the said Thomas Bourke, etc., as such false traitors as aforesaid, afterwards, [140] to wit, on the 11th day of July, in the yea of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty six, and on other days, as well before as after that day in the United States of America, did conspire, consult, consent and agree with James Stephens, John O’Mahony, Colonel Kelly, General Cluseret, Doran Killian, James J. Rogers, General Mullen, General Vifquain, General Fariola, General Condon, Colonel Quinlan, Colonel Henry Quinn, Colonel Patrick Leonard Major O’Dowd, Captain McClure, Captain Fitzharris Captain Gleeson, Captain Burke, Captain O’Brien Major Delahunt, Captain Nolan, Captain Bible, Captain Hennessy, Captain Mackay, Captain Decle, Captain Moran, Captain Dunn, Captain O’Neill, Captain Joyce, Captain Corrigan, Captain Doheny, Captain Gibbons, Captain Murtagh, and divers other false traitors, to the jurors aforesaid unknown, to move and still certain foreigners and strangers, to wit, certain citizen of the United States of America, and persons resident in America, with force and arms, to invade that par of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland called Ireland. And further to fulfil, perfect and bring to their most wicked treason and treasonable compassing, imagination, device and intention aforesaid, they the said Thomas Bourke, &c., as such false traitors aforesaid, afterwards, to wit, on the 11th day of Feb ruary, in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven, and on divers other days, as well before as after that day, maliciously and traitorously did make divers journeys, and did go into that part of her Majesty’s dominions called England, and, to wit [141] at Chester, in the shire of Cheshire, did collect and bring together a great number of false traitors, to the number of three thousand, in order to raise rebellion and insurrection therein, and to seize on, take, and carry away a quantity of guns, pistols and other military weapons, the property of her Majesty, wherewith they might the better arm themselves, and fight against the troops and soldiers of our said Lady the Queen.”

The next section of the first count charges that the accused did conspire with the persons named, and other false traitors, to raise, levy and make insurrection, rebellion and war against the Queen, and “with force and arms, at the Parish of Tallaght, in the County of Dublin, maliciously and traitorously did arm themselves with, and bear and carry certain weapons, that is to say, guns, pistols and pikes, with intent to associate themselves with divers other false traitors, armed with guns, pistols and pikes, whose names are to the said jurors unknown, for the purpose of raising, levying and making public insurrection, rebellion and war against our said Lady the Queen, and of committing and perpetrating a cruel slaughter of and amongst the faithful subjects of our said Lady the Queen, within this realm.”

The subsequent sections charge the prisoners with having attacked the police at Glencullen, Stepaside. Kilmallock, Ballyknockane, Ballyhurst and Drogheda.

The second count repeats the same overt acts as in the first count, omitting the words “being subjects of our Lady the Queen, not regarding the duty of their allegiance,” and the words “wholly withdrawing the [142] allegiance, fidelity and obedience which every true and faithful subject of our said Lady the Queen should and of right ought to bear towards our said Lady the Queen.”

The third count charges that the accused and others did traitorously assemble and make war against the Queen in the County Dublin; and the fourth again sets out the illegal acts relative to the attack upon the police barracks at Glencullen, etc., where the accused “did arm and array themselves in a warlike manner, and did then and there make a warlike attack upon and fire at a body of constables, then and there lawfully assembled in the due execution of their duty, and then and there did make a warlike attack upon a certain dwelling-house and barrack, in which divers constables of her Majesty then were, and did call on and demand said constables to surrender to the Irish Republic, and did fire upon said constables, and then did compel the said constables to surrender the said house to them, the said traitors.”

In the list of witnesses to be produced by the Crown, against the prisoners indicted for high treason at the Special Commission, and to be resumed on Wednesday, the 24th of April, when the trial of the Fenian prisoners would proceed forthwith, were the following persons connected with the United States of America. They are thus described, amongst over two hundred others: Patrick Condon, otherwise called Godfrey Massey, formerly a colonel in the Confederate Army of the Southern States of North America; afterwards a canvasser for a commercial house in New Orleans, and [143] at present no occupation; formerly Phelan’s coffee-house, at New Levee, in the city of New Orleans, America; afterwards Tavistock street, in the county of Middlesex, in England, and now the of f ice of the Metropolitan Police, Lower Castle Yard, county of the city of Dublin. John Joseph Corydon, formerly a lieutenant in the United States of America, and at present no profession; late the Commercial Hotel, Islington, Liverpool, in England, and now the station of the Metropolitan Police, Chancery lane, county of the city of Dublin. John Devany, formerly a clerk in a mercantile establishment in New York, and at present no profession; late Ridge street, New York, in the United States of America, and now the station of the Metropolitan Police, Chancery lane, county of the city of Dublin.


The trial commenced on the 24th of April. The following evidence was elicited: It was proved by one Edward Brett, a servant of Mr. James Bartel, of Thomastown, that having been sent for bread on the morning of the 6th March, he was stopped on his return, and from statements made to him he brought the bread to Ballyhurst Fort, where Bourke, who was lame, distributed it among the men. Sub-inspector Wm. Kelly, who had seen Bourke in the month previous, described him as “a man with a broken-up constitution, and not capable of much physical exertion.

William Woodworth, color-sergeant 31st Regiment, examined: I was stationed at Tipperary, on the afternoon of the 6th March last. I went out with about sixty men to Ballyhurst Fort. I saw [144] large number of men emerging from it in twos and threes. As we approached the fort, we were fired upon by men in the fort. I saw a single horseman in the fort. He moved away in an oblique direction from the rest of the mob. As he rode away he was fired upon by several of the men. I observed him fall or dismount from his horse. We closely pursued him. Privates Squires and Dickens were under my command. With me they overtook him behind a hedge. I identify that person as the prisoner Bourke. He had a stick in his hand and appeared to be lame. I did not lose sight of him from the time I first saw him until he dismounted. There were no persons near him but soldiers when we arrested him.

Win. Roberts, color-sergeant 31st, deposed that he searched the prisoner Bourke, and found with him a pocket-book and two documents. In the pocket-book was inscribed the following oath: “In the presence of Almighty God, I solemnly swear that I will not bear arms against, or by word or net give information, aid or comfort to the enemies of the Irish Republic, until regularly relieved of this obligation. So help me God.” The two documents were lists of names.

On cross-examination the witness stated that the man on horse-back was three hundred yards away from him when the men fired, and that at that distance he could not recognize him.

Another account, written on authority, varies little from the depositions on the trial, but sufficient to give Bourke full credit for the position in which he was captured, and says: “The force of the 31st, which acted there under Major Lynd, did not at first fire a single-shot, but charged up a hill against the Fenian insurgents, intending to attack them with the bayonet. The latter bolted away, and the soldiers, after a long ran after them, saw them gathered together at some distance off. Marksmen were then ordered to the front, and-knelt down and fired, and several Fenians [145] were wounded. It is not a fact that the rebel called ‘Colonel’ Bourke surrendered. He was on a horse trying to rally his men when a sergeant took aim and fired at him, and it is supposed that he wounded the horse from which Bourke fell. Bourke was afterwards found on a truss of straw, and was arrested.”

The evidence of the informers, Godfrey Massey, and John Joseph Corydon, on the trial of General Bourke, referring to many other Fenian heroes and martyrs, is given substantially in full from the reports, leaving out the questions which elicited the narratives. The same evidence in its main features was given by them on the trials of the others identified and convicted by them.

Patrick Condon, alias Godfrey Massey, was called.

On the witness ascending the table, the prisoner, General Bourke, changed his position in the dock, and looked Massey straight in the face, but the latter turned his eye aside. The witness stated that he was a colonel in the 2nd Texas regiment, Confederate service, afterwards a canvasser for a commercial house in New Orleans; that he became connected with the Fenian Brotherhood about August, 1865, and went to New York in October, 1806. He first saw Bourke, whom he now identified, in the Central Fenian Office, 19 Chatham street, New York. He met Stephens there also. He continued:

“I was at a Fenian meeting in Philadelphia. Steps were there taken for the purpose of collecting war materials and money. An officer was appointed to take charge of the materials. The war materials were to be sent to New York, for shipment to Ireland. Stephens and I left Philadelphia and went to Washington. We there met some men belonging to the organization, and consulted them. I know that James Stephens was connected with the Fenian Brotherhood. That portion of it which began with John O’Mahony, was under his direction. I have known the prisoner, Bourke, as [146] Colonel Thomas Bourke, or Colonel Thomas F. Bourke, in America. I knew very well a person named Colonel Kelley. I gave money to Colonel Thomas F. Bourke. I gave him about £10 in London. I stated to him when I gave him the money the purpose, which was that he should come with me to Ireland to join the rising; that was some weeks previous to the 11th February last. He said that he had to leave London for Ireland on the evening of the day in which he would receive the money. After I left Washington, I went to New York. I arrived there before Stephens by a few days. On Stephens’ return, there was a meeting of the Fenians held at New York. About the middle of December, 1866, there was a Fenian meeting held. Some of the Irish Centres were present. General Halpin was present. I cannot think of the names of all, but about thirty were present. I am not sure whether the prisoner, Colonel Bourke, was there. Stephens presided at the meeting. Stephens made a statement. showing the amount of war material held by the Brotherhood at New York. He said that the amount was not one-seventh of the minimum fixed by himself. He said that the mini-mum was thirty thousand rifles. He objected to open the fight, as he had promised, but to prove his fidelity to Ireland, he offered to come over and put himself in the hands of the police authorities, and to be hanged. That proposition was scouted by every one, and it was determined that the fight should be opened. I knew a person named Captain M’Cafferty. He was at that meeting. Some evenings after that, Stephens convened another meeting. About twenty officials were present at that meeting. It was purely a military one. M’Cafferty wanted to know the plan of the campaign. Stephens did not like to mention it. I said that M’Cafferty was right, and supported his motion to divulge the plan of the campaign to his officers. That was what turned out afterwards to be the campaign for Ireland. At that meeting several of the officers said that they would leave on the next day, Saturday, for Ireland, and they did. There was a list of names of officers who were to go to Ireland made out. I got that list of names from Colonel Kelley. He then held the position of C. O. I. R. be was the deputy of Stephens. C. O. I. [R] signified “Chief Organizer of the Irish Republic.” After the time of the first meeting, some of the officers left for Ireland. I do [147] not remember the names of those who left for Ireland. After that meeting I attended a meeting at Stephens’ lodgings, West Eleventh street. James Stephens was present, so were Colonel Kelly, Captain O’Shea, and others. I know the district of Manhattan. At a subsequent meeting, Stephens was deposed and repudiated, and Colonel Kelly was put in his stead. I left New York on 11th January of the present year. I took shipping for England, from Portland, in the State of Maine. Before leaving New York, I received from Colonel Kelly £550 in gold, (British money,) to be distributed among the officers in Ireland. The list I referred to a few minutes ago, I destroyed. When I arrived here I met the officers whose names Colonel Kelly disclosed to me, and in accordance with instructions I gave them the moneys. I arrived in Liverpool on the 20th January, in the present year. I remained there for a day, and then proceeded to London, where I stopped at private lodgings until the 11th February. Amongst the officers whose names Colonel Kelly disclosed to me, and whom I met in London, was the prisoner, Thomas Bourke, who was appointed to the Tipperary district. Captain O’Brien and Dominick O’Mahony were officers for Cork. Captain Deasy was for the Mill-street district. A man named Joyce was officer for Fermoy. General Halpin was for the Dublin district. I do not know that there was any one mentioned for Louth or Drogheda. Colonel Kelly lodged in 5 Upper Creswell street, London. I saw there General Fariola, a Franco-Italian, and a person named Cluseret. I knew General Halpin well. I saw there Beirne or O’Beirne, from Dublin, Mahony, from Cork, and Harbison, from Belfast, who said they were delegates or representatives of the Fenian Brotherhood in Ireland. I gave them money; £30 would cover what each got. I stated to them that the money was given for the support of the organization. At that meeting an address was drawn up con-jointly by three. It was discussed as they went along - that is, paragraph by paragraph. It spoke about the wrongs of Ireland, and called upon the people to take up arms, and invoking the sympathy and aid of the working men of England. I came to Dublin on the 11th February. There was a meeting of Centres hold the next day. O’Beirne was there. The Centres stated the numerical strength, material of war, and the number of arms held by each. I [148] took the returns myself of the respective Centres then and there assembled.”

What did they state the numerical strength was? About fourteen thousand. And the material of war and arms? About three thousand stand of arms - to consist of rifles, guns and pikes.

“The next day I went into the county Mayo, first to Castlebar, then to Westport, where I stopped one night. I then returned to Dublin, thence to Cork, where a Fenian meeting was held on the outskirts of the town, convened by O’Mahony, the same I gave the money to in London. The numerical strength given me in Cork, was twenty thousand men, and about one thousand five hundred weapons, the vast majority of them pikes. I left Cork the next day for the town of Tipperary, for the purpose of acquiring a knowledge of the country for military purposes. I next returned to Dublin, and then left for London. I went to Colonel Kelly’s lodgings. Kelly gave me some more money to be distributed. He told me the rising was fixed for the 5th of March, that being the anniversary of the day on which some of the persons taken in Canada were sentenced to be executed. Told me that the railroad centres were to be destroyed, if they could not be held by the insurgents. A guerrilla war was to be maintained, and the railways destroyed by the insurgents. I left London on the morning after my arrival, and returned to Dublin, for a day or two. I then went to Mullingar, for military purposes. On my return to Dublin a meeting of Fenian Centres was held, at some distance from Porto Bello Barracks. O’Beirne was there. Told him the night of the 5th March was fixed for the rising. On the next day went to Cork, where I saw O’Mahony, to whom I said that the 5th of March had been fixed upon for the rising. Soon after I left Cork, and went to the Limerick Junction, where I was arrested, on the railway platform, on the night of the 4th March.”

On the cross-examination, Counsellor Butt forced Massey to acknowledge the disgrace both of his mother and wife. He proved he was the illegitimate son [149] of the former by one Massey, and that the latter pressed him to become an informer.

The statement of the other wretch, Corydon, whose brazen non-chalance was quite in keeping with his degradation was as follows:

“I was a lieutenant in the Federal army; I became a member of the Fenian Brotherhood in the summer of 1862; I was then in the Federal army; I took an oath when I joined the organization; Patrick J. Condon was the person who administered the oath to me; he went by the name of O’Dell; I last saw him on the Saturday night previous to the rising; I remained nearly four years in the Federal army; I left it in July 1865; I attended Fenian meetings while I was in the Federal army; I met Condon, Gleeson, Colonel Burke, and Lieutenant Joyce; the prisoner at the bar is not the Colonel Bourke I mean; I remained in New York about a month after the army was disbanded; I attended the Fenian headquarters nearly every day while I was in New York; they were in Duane street; John O’Mahony was the head of the organization; I met Colonel Downing and several officers in Duane street; I was sent by John O’Mahony to James Stephens in August; I was not the bearer of any despatches; I was accompanied by four other persons connected with the Fenian organization; their names were Major Martin Wallis, Captain Michael O’Brien, Edward O’Byrne and Thomas O’Connor; we went to Liverpool, and from that we came to Dublin. In Dublin I attended a Fenian meeting at Denieffe’s house in North Anne street; it was attended by James Stephens, O’Donovan Rossa and others; I said to Stephens we were desired by John O’Mahony to report ourselves to him; he told us to find lodgings, and that he would know where to find us; [remained in Dublin till November, 1865; while here I heard of James Stephen’s arrest; I know Colonel Kelly; he was at that lime an officer in the Fenian Brotherhood; he told me that the purport of the dispatches was the. Stephens would be out of jail in five or six days; I mean out of Richmond; I went to New York by the Scotia on the 19th November; I saw [150] O’Mahony and many other Fenian officers; we had a meeting when I arrived, and we gave the tidings of the expected escape of Stephens; the prisoner Bourke was them; I had been introduced to him in Union-square; I came back to Ireland; the announcement of Stephen’s escape was made while I was there; Bourke was an organizer for Manhattan, and he urged he men to unity, and said when Stephens could get out of an English jail what could not people outside do in accomplishing the objects for which they were banded; I came to Queenstown on the 22nd December; I went to Cork, and from thence to Dublin; I remained in Ireland one night; I delivered my dispatches to Colonel Kelly in Heytesbury street; I got dispatches from Kelly to O’Mahony, and went to New York again, where I saw Bourke; in January, 1866, I came to Liverpool, and thence to Dublin; I remained here until April; I know M’Cafferty; he was introduced to me as a Fenian; I last saw M’Cafferty in the prisoner’s van; he was described to me as an officer of the organization, and one of the guerrillas of the Southern States; I net several other prominent Fenians, including Kelly, Col. Bourke, John Flood, Capt. Doherty, Major Quinn, &c; I saw M’Cafferty in Dublin, in the latter end of January or February; I met also Edward Duffy; in April, 1866, I went to Liverpool and remained there until February last; I received pay from the funds of the Fenian brotherhood; the paymaster was Capt. O’Rorke, who went by the name of Beecher; we received orders to be prepared to move on to Chester; our orders were at first to remain quiet until we would be told to move; I next saw the prisoner in the early part of January, 1867, in Birchfield street, in Liverpool; it was then stated that he came from America; I met persons who had come from America with him; they were Captain or Colonel Dunne, John Joseph Roger;, Harry Miledy, who went by the name of Shaw, and some others; I met those people at a meeting in Birchfield street; the prisoner Bourke was at that meeting; he stated that they came over for the purpose of fighting, and it was useless to think any longer that Stephens would fight, for he would not; I met John M’Cafferty in Liverpool, in February, 1867; I met him on more occasions than one; I remember a meeting being held in Liverpool in the latter [151] end of January, 1867, or beginning of February, for the purpose of forming a directory; that was after Bourke had left; another man named Bourke was there and a man named Nolan; Captain O’Rorke, alias Beecher, was there, and presided; he said he came from London to Liverpool, to know if the American officers were in favor of forming a directory; he said they were forming a directory and M’Cafferty and he were in it, and he wanted to know would they sanction M’Cafferty’s appointment and also a man named Flood; I next saw M’Cafferty a few days before the Chester affair; Flood and all the American officers in Liverpool were there; the meeting was held at the house of a man named Walsh in Edgar street; M’Cafferty and Flood said they were sent from the directory in London, with money to pay their way to Chester; they said that the American officers in Liverpool would go to Chester; that the castle there was to be attacked, the arms seized, a train seized, and the arms put into it of course; the rails were to be taken up and the wires also, and they were to proceed by train to Holyhead, where they would seize the mail boat and land in Ireland; that plan was agreed to at the meeting; no arrangements for carrying it out were made; after the meeting separated, and on the Sunday before the Monday, I gave information to the authorities in Liverpool, I made arrangements to go to Chester; all the American officers, about twenty,. went to Chester; I saw them at Birkenhead; I went there with them; I met Austin Gibbons, one of the American officers at Birkenhead; a countermand of the order to march on Chester was given by Gibbons; he told me that the thing was “sold;” that some one had informed; he said that M’Cafferty sent to him to tell them all in Liverpool that the thing was “sold,” and they were to go back; after that, late in February, I got orders to come to Dublin; I remained there until the Intended rising; I came to Dublin; I knew Colonel Godfrey Massey; I saw him after I came to Ireland; I was ordered to go to Millstreet (Cork); I was so ordered by Massey and Duffy; I was told to go to Millstreet and see the “ Centre” there, a man named Kearney; that he would give me instructions how to act, and through him to find my way to Colonel O’Connor in Kerry; I was desired to tell O’Connor about the rising to take [152] place on the 5th of March; in case I could not see O’Connor, Kearney was to get me introduced to the “Centre,” near Mill-town, county Kerry, and I was to take the command; my party was to blow up bridges, tear up the rails and telegraph wires, and “break banks,” and if possible, we were to go as far as Rathkeale in the county of Limerick; I saw General Halpin in Dublin before I left for the south; I also saw the other man Bourke; I received £3 from Duffy before I left; I went to Millstreet on the 4th of March; I saw Kearney; he told me to go back to the city of Cork and see a man named Michael Murphy, who would probably give me nstructions about O’Connor; I went to Cork that night; I saw Michael Murphy; he sent me to Dominick Mahony, the Head Centre for Cork; did not see Massey in Cork; M’Mahon told me he was in Cork at that time; I saw Captain O’Brien, Captain Condon and others in Cork; Condon was in Military command at Cork; he told me to go to Middleton; I remained in Cork till Monday, the 4th of March; I left by the morning train; I met Massey’s messenger; he told me that Massey was coming by the 12 o’clock train to Limerick Junction; I came to Dublin, and arrived about 4 o’clock; I went to the Lower Castle Yard, and gave information to the authorities; I saw Massey next a prisoner; I first began to give information to the authorities in Liverpool in September, 1866.”

On the 1st of May, the Chief Justice charged the jury, which after having been out from half past three to five minutes before six o ‘ clock, brought in a verdict of guilty. Having been asked the usual question, if he had anything to say why judgment and execution should not be pronounced, the prisoner, says the report, who spoke throughout in a clear, firm and impressive manner, and whose style of expression was manifestly that of a man who possessed a refined and educated mind, said: [153]

My Lords it is not my intention to occupy much of your time in answering the question why the sentence of the court should not now be passed on me. But I may, with your permission, review a little of the evidence that has been brought against me. The first evidence that I would speak of, is that of Sub-Inspector Kelly, who had the conversation with me in Clonmel, in Tipperary. He states that he asked either “How was my friend,” or “What about my friend Stephens,” and that I made answer and said he was the most idolized man that ever had been, or ever would be, in America. Here, standing on the brink of my grave, in the presence of the Almighty and Ever-Living God, I brand that as being the foulest perjury that ever man gave utterance to. No such conversation ever occurred. The name of Stephens was not mentioned. I shall pass from that, and then touch on the evidence of Britt. He states that I assisted in distributing the bread to the parties in the fort, and that I stood with him in the wagon or cart. That is also false. I was not in the fort at the time at all; I was not there when the bread was being distributed. I came in afterwards. Both of these assertions have been made, and submitted to the men in whose hands my life rested, as evidence, made on oath, by these men - made solely and purely for the purpose of giving my body to an untimely grave.

(The prisoner here, evidently to refresh his memory, looked at a little bit of paper in his hand, on which he had taken a few notes of the evidence during the trial.)

There are many points, my lords, that have been sworn to here, to prove my complicity in a great many acts, it has been alleged I took part in. It is not my desire now, my lords, to give utterance to one word against the verdict which has been pronounced upon me. But fully conscious of my honor as a man, which has never been impugned - fully conscious that I can go into my grave with a name and character unsullied - I can only say this: that these parties, actuated by a desire either for their own aggrandizement, or to save their paltry, miserable lives, have pandered to the appetite, if I may so speak, of justice; and my life shall be the forfeit. Fully convinced and satisfied of the righteousness of my every act in connection with the late revolutionary movement in Ireland, I have nothing to recall - nothing that I would not do again - nothing that would bring up the blush of shame to mantle [154] my brow; my conduct and career, both here and in America - if you like, as a soldier - are before you, and even in this my hour of trial, I feel the consciousness of having lived an honest man; and I will die proudly, believing that if I have given my life to give freedom and liberty to the land of my birth, I have done only that which every Irishman and every man whose soul throbs with a feeling of liberty should do. I, my lords, shall scarcely - I feel I should not at all - mention the name of Massey. I feel I should not pollute my lips with the name of that traitor, whose illegitimacy has been proved here; a man whose name even is not known, and who I deny point-blank, ever wore the star of a colonel in the Confederate army. Him I shall let rest. I shall pass him, wishing him, in the words of the poet

“May the grass wither from his feet;
May the woods deny him shelter - earth, a home;
The ashes a grave; the sun his light;
And Heaven its God.”

Let Massey remember from this day forth, he carries with him, as my learned and eloquent counsel (Mr. Dowse) has stated, a serpent that will gnaw his conscience - will carry about with him in his breast a living hell, from which he can never be separated. I, my lords, have no desire for the name of a martyr. I seek not the death of a martyr; but if it is the will of the Almighty and Omnipotent God that my devotion to the land of my birth should be tested on the scaffold, I am willing there to die in defence of the right of men to free government - the right of an oppressed people to throw off the yoke of thraldom. I am an Irishman by birth, an American by adoption, by nature a lover of freedom, and an enemy to that power that holds my native land in the bonds of tyranny. It has so - often been admitted that the oppressed have a right to throw off the yoke of oppression, even by English statesmen, that I deem it unnecessary to advert to that fact in a British court of justice. Ireland’s children are not - never were - and never will be - willing or submissive slaves, and so long as England’s flag covers one inch of Irish soil, just so long will they believe it to be a Divine right “to conspire, imagine and devise” means to hurl it from power, And erect in its stead the God-like structure of self-government. Before [155] I go any further, I have one important duty that I wish to dispose of. To my learned, talented and eloquent counsel, I offer that poor gift - the thanks - the sincere and grateful thanks of an honest man; I offer him, too, in the name of America, the thanks of the Irish people. I know that I am here without a relative - without a friend, in fact - three thousand miles away from my family. But I know that I am not forgotten there. The great and generous Irish heart of America to-day feels for - to-day sympathizes with, and does not forget the man who is willing to tread the scaffold - aye, defiantly - proudly conscious of no wrong - in defence of American principles - In defence of liberty. I now, to Mr. Butt, Mr. Dowse, Mr. O’Loghlen - all my counsel, one of whom was, I believe, Mr. Curran - and my able solicitor, Mr. Lawless - I return to them, individually and collectively, my sincere and heartfelt thanks. I shall now, my lords, as no doubt you will suggest the propriety of; turn my attention to the world beyond the grave. I shall now look on to that home where sorrows are at an end - where joy is eternal. I shall hope and pray that freedom may yet dawn on this poor down-trodden country. That is my hope and my prayer; and the last words I shall utter will be a prayer to God for forgiveness, and a prayer for poor old Ireland. Now, my lords, in relation to the other man, Corydon, I will make a few remarks. Perhaps before I go to Corydon, I should say, much has been spoken on that table of Colonel Kelly, and of the meeting held at his quarters or lodgings in London. I desire to state, I never knew where Colonel Kelly’s lodgings were, and I never knew where he lived in London, until I heard the informer, Massey, announce it on the table. I never attended a meeting at Colonel Kellys, and the hundred other statements about him, that has been made to your lordships, and to you, gentlemen of the jury, I now solemnly declare, on my honor as a man - aye, as a dying man - these statements to have been totally unfounded and false from beginning to end. In relation to the small paper that was introduced here and brought against me, as evidence, as having been found on my person, in connection with that oath, I desire to say, that paper was not found on my person, and I knew no person whose name was on that paper. O’Byrne, of Dublin, or those other persons you have heard of, I never saw [156] nor met. That paper has been put in there for some purpose. I can swear positively it was not in my hand writing; I can also swear I never saw it, yet it is used as evidence against me. Is this justice? Is this right? Is this manly? I am willing, if I have transgressed the laws, to suffer the punishment; but I object to this system of trumping up a case, to take away the life of a human being. True, I ask for no mercy. My present emaciated form - my constitution somewhat shattered - it is better that my life should be brought to an end, than to drag out a miserable existence in the prison pens of Portland. Thus it is, my lords, I accept the verdict. Of course my acceptance of it is unnecessary; but I am satisfied with it. And now I shall close. True it is there are many feelings that actuate me at this moment. In fact, these few disconnected remarks can give no idea of what I desire to state to the court. I have ties to bind me to life and society, as strong as any man in this court. I have a family I love as much as any man in this court does his. But I can remember the blessing received from an aged mother’s lips, as I left her the last time. She spoke as the Spartan mother did - “Go, my boy. Return either with your shield or upon it.” This reconciles me. This gives me heart. I submit to my doom, and I hope that God will forgive me my past sins. I hope, too, that inasmuch as He has for seven hundred years, preserved Ireland, notwithstanding all the tyranny to which she has been subjected, as a separate and distinct nationality, He will also retrieve her fallen fortunes - to rise in her beauty and her majesty, the sister of Columbia, the peer of any nation in the world.

The prisoner here ceased, and stepped back from the front of the dock, just as calmly as he had advanced to it, but with perhaps a slight additional lustre in his eye, and a heightened color. Throughout he never hesitated for a word, but spoke slowly, distinctly and deliberately, to the end. He was listened to throughout with breathless anxiety. A murmur of applause and delight with his eloquent and touching address, [157] arose amid the audience, as he stepped back, but it was, of course, instantly suppressed by the officials.

The sentence of the law for high treason was then pronounced, that the prisoner be hanged, drawn and quartered, on Wednesday, the 29th May.

In appearance, Thomas Francis Bourke was striking, even though enfeebled by disease. About five feet ten inches in height, with a slight stoop recently contracted, his earnest manner gave his actions a spirit of enthusiasm which was greatly heightened by his eye (full but not prominent), when anything occurred to stir his natural genius. He was deeply imbued with a religions feeling, both of sentiment and action. On the night before his trial he wrote the following strong, touching, and beautiful letter:

Dearly Beloved Mother
Long before this reaches you, my sentence, I presume, will have been made known to the American world by the Atlantic cable. This is the night before my trial, and what that sentence may be I do not know; but I am resigned and prepared to meet, in a manner that becomes your son and my own manhood, whatever God in his mercy has destined for me. in Him are all my hopes, and He will not desert me in my hour of trial, nor you in your deep affliction! 0, my dear, dear mother! there is only one thought that almost unmans me, and that is, I, who was only happy in your happiness, should, in your declining years, cause you even a moment’s pang of sorrow! But, as this transitory life is at best, ‘but a vale of tears and suffering’, you have before your eyes the grief and unspeakable affliction of that Holy Mother who gave up her Divine Son to crucifixion for the redemption of man’s immortal soul; and she who is now a mother to me, will be to you the Refuge and Comforter of the Afflicted.” [158]

Again, here is the record of a loving thought and comforting fact :

“I have carefully guarded and preserved the Agnus Dei which you suspended round my neck at our parting ... On last Easter Sunday I partook of Holy Communion at a late Mass. I counted the difference of time between this longitude and yours, for I knew that you and my dear sisters were partaking of the Sacrament at early Mass on that day, as was your wont, and I felt that our souls were in communion together!”

As anything relating to the young hero is entertaining, and especially all that illustrates his internal nature, the following reminiscences of one who obtained admission into his cell in Kilmainham Jail, while under sentence of death, will be particularly appropriate and interesting:

“A warder paced without in the passage. I went over and looked within, and lying on a hammock, with a little table beside him, upon which stood a crucifix, a vase of holy water and some books, was the nearest of the ‘Irish felons’ to death.

“His quick eye noted me at once. He had a book in his hand. He laid it down. He raised himself by a cord attached to the lower end of his conch. I took it as an invitation to enter, and I beckoned the warder.

“The door was unbarred, and I walked forward. A few words were responded by me, and I sat down. The hammock in which he lay was swung from iron hooks fastened in the walls of his cell, and extended transversely across that apartment. Beyond was the straw pallet in which the prisoner used to lie at night. [159]

“The book which he had been reading on my entrance lay open upon the couch. I looked at its heading, and it was the ‘Preparation for Death,’ by St. Alphonsus Ligouri.

“I saw no change in Thomas Bourke the condemned and Thomas Bourke on trial. Self-possessed and calm as ever, he spoke quietly, firmly and gently. His observations were given almost invariably in reply. In the life of the informers he could see nothing worth living for, when they had outlived their honor and foreswore their oaths; so he gave his dictum, and I believed him. I spoke of his worn and enfeebled state of health, for I had special reasons for so doing. He told me it was his souvenir of a gallant fight; two bullet wounds had passed through his leg near the upper thew of the thigh. The hospitals were crowded with wounded, and although he got as much ‘care as possible,’ still he was not so well cared as, ‘under other circumstances he would be;’ and the muscles of his leg sloughed away, until, he said, when the wound healed, ‘the skin alone covered the bone.’ And so, truly, it was; from his thigh to about ten inches above the knee there was only the bone covered with thin and seamed skin. There was one topic more upon which I started, and that was the most important topic - death was near him. I shall not tell how I neared that great subject, but well I remember his reply. ‘There is a little book,’ he said, ‘which has taught me much, and one thing it has taught me beyond all; the longest life is not the best life. You read,’ he said, ‘the Imitation of Christ’

“An hour [160] goes by very fast in the cell of a man whose hours are numbered by the law, and my hour with Thomas Bourke fleeted faster than I dreamed. Much he spoke, and much I learned from others of him, but all he said only fixed the picture I drew of him deeper in my mind, that a better and nobler soul never existed upon the earth.

“They have spread reports of his bearing and treatment since his imprisonment, which are neither respectable fiction nor stray fact. It has been asserted that he has left a wife and family in New York; that he has been allowed every delicacy which he required, and nothing has been refused to him; that the Sisters of Charity were in constant attendance upon him - and to all those assertions I give a flat contradiction. Thomas Bourke never was married, he has no wife, no children. He leaves behind him in America a dear and venerable mother, and as dear sisters, and of all of whom he was the prop and stay. When he was convicted and sentenced he was placed upon the diet which the law allows, and no more, and that diet is but bread and water. Afterwards, he received the diet of the ordinary prisoners, and no other delicacy. The Sisters of Charity never were in attendance upon him; but the Sisters of Mercy, from Goldenbridge, visited him upon one of the last days of his stay at Kilmainham, and I believe did so at the request of the Very Rev. Mr. Kennedy, the chaplain of the jail. Now, little as all those items in the strange eventful history of General Thomas Bourke may seem, there is a necessity that there should be no mistake about [161] them; and when I add that his manner, his kindliness, his gentleness, and his unobtrusive courage impressed all around him with a high idea of his character, I have given to public record much, though not all, of what I learned in an hour in the jail and cell of Thomas Bourke when he lay there condemned to die.”

Subsequently the sentence of death was commuted to perpetual imprisonment.


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